Re: Voice and Morphology (was hHKW/hHKASIN)

From: Don Wilkins (
Date: Tue Oct 28 1997 - 12:50:21 EST

At 07:06 PM 10/27/97 -0500, Rod Decker wrote:
>>From: Don Wilkins <>
>>I would agree. It turns out that I have recently become aware of the
>>*opposite* situation, i.e. where the "tense" (as defined by morphology)
>>appears to pull adverbs or other time indicators toward the verb and away
>>from their conventional meanings.
>Don, I'd be quite interested in your observations and some data in this regard.

I should have been more exact; I have found one passage that jumps out at
me, and vaguely remember having seen similar passages before but I do not
know where. However, the passage I am speaking of is John 21:10, and the key
(relative) clause is: hWN EPIASATE NUN. This is one of those passages where
we *might* have a sufficiently unambiguous view of what happened to be able
to analyze the exact meaning of the Greek. It is clear from what precedes
and follows that Jesus is speaking of a past, though very recent, event. If
we take the approach of assuming that the augment is meaningless and that
only the punctiliar (an unhappy term, but perhaps as good as anything else
for the time being) aspect is implied, then we might assume that the NUN
puts the event in the present (borrowing Mari Broman Olsen's view of the
"cancellation" effect of adverbs etc., which I find very interesting and
fairly persuasive). However, ARTI would seem more appropriate under the
circumstances, and John uses this word elsewhere (though apparently not with
the aorist to refer to the immediate past; unfortunately I don't have time
at the moment to do thorough research on the issue). Again, taking the
aspect/no time approach, the construction suggests that we interpret the
even as a punctiliar present, which would be very handy since there is no
formal way of specifying a punctiliar present. But then we know that at the
moment the disciples are not presently engaged in the action, and that it is
clearly a past event. All of this led me to the tentative conclusion that,
rather than the adverb NUN pulling the aorist into the present (or simply
defining the timing as present, as some would argue), it seemed more likely
that the aorist is pulling NUN, normally a "here and now" kind of idea, into
the recent past. No doubt the other side would argue that the clause is
defined as present, which in a broader sense could include the preceding
event of the context, but I think Ockham's razor--for what it is
worth--argues for the interpretation I am suggesting. Actually the razor is
rather important here because advocates of a timeless indicative always base
their case on the assumption that the Greek is meant (by its author) to
refer to "real time" (what we "know" to have actually happened *must* be the
meaning of the Greek); i.e. they do not, from what I have seen, allow for
the possibility that the writer is taking a subjective (not false, just
different from ours) view of the events. Of course if the latter possibility
is true, it is much more challenging to interpret the passage and there is
probably no way to verify the interpretation. Only by maintaining a
consistent view of tenses in the indicative can we presuppose the
possibility of determining what the writer has in mind. Otherwise, in
effect, once one does away with the rules of the game (in my view the
temporal properties of the indicative), the game itself disappears.

I have probably said too much, since this is implicity bringing up the
aspect debate again, so I apologize for that and reiterate that I have no
desire to reopen the debate.

Don Wilkins

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